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Extent of whale and dolphin watching
Over 51 known species of marine mammals and some 50% of the world’s cetacean species can be found in New Zealand waters. Whale watching started in the late 1980’s and now attracts over 550,000 tourists per year1.
Target species, peak times of year and locations:
Whale watching tourism in New Zealand generally focuses on sperm and Bryde’s whales, bottlenose, common, dusky, and Hector’s dolphins. Other species that may be encountered opportunistically during tours include killer, humpback and southern right whales. On occasion it is possible to see blue, fin, sei, minke, pilot, beaked and false killer whales as well as southern right-whale dolphins. There are nine primary locations (see the table below) for commercial marine mammal tourism around the country, and several others where opportunistic and land-based viewing is possible. The largest whale watching operation is based in Kaikoura, where tours focus on sperm whales that frequent underwater canyons close to shore, as well as dolphins, fur seals and sea birds.
Additional information about whale watching opportunities in New Zealand can be found on the following websites: